Young people have the greatest risk of getting injured at work. However, this risk varies greatly within the group of youths, new study finds. (Photo: <a href=" http://www.shutterstock.com/" target="_blank">Shutterstock</a>)
Young people have the greatest risk of getting injured at work. However, this risk varies greatly within the group of youths, new study finds. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Young dropouts get the most work injuries

If we want to prevent work injuries among young people, we shouldn’t stereotype young people into a single group using only age as a factor. There are great differences in how the various groups of youths are injured at work.

Published

Young adult workers aged 18-24 have the highest risk of accidents at work.

If you as a business manager want to prevent work injuries for your young workers, you should pay attention to some fundamental issues that tend to be overlooked.

Young people are not a homogenous group that should be treated in the same way. Within the 18-24 age bracket there are e.g. great differences in how many injuries occur depending on whether the person is e.g. a skilled worker, an apprentice, a student worker or a school dropout.

So concludes a new study from the The National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Denmark (NFA), published in the Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies.

Dropouts do the heaviest lifting

Age cannot stand alone as the only factor in safety prevention directed at workers aged 18–24 years. If we do so, there is a risk of overemphasising age-related individual characteristics such as awareness and cognitive limitations before structural, relational and hierarchical dimensions in the workplace.

Johnny Dyreberg

”We argue that it can be dangerous to categorise young people as a single group – usually consisting of people aged between 18 and 24. One problem with this is that the young people are attributed with a special group personality, for instance that they are risk takers or inexperienced. This often has the consequence that the personal and work relations that these people enter into are overlooked,” says Johnny Dyreborg, a senior researcher at the NFA.

”We categorised young adult retail workers into five distinct groups which reflect the working conditions and the risk factors that young people work under, including their position in the workplace.

“One of these categories is school dropouts. This group often has the most monotonous and physically taxing work tasks, along with poor prospects on the labour market. These are the ones who have the greatest problems according to our data, because their work is entirely different from what student workers do, as this latter group usually does not stay in the job for long and does not necessarily do the heavy work, but rather tends to sit at the register or something similar.”

Five categories provide a much clearer picture

With this in mind, the researchers decided not to classify the young workers according to age.

After observations and interviews in the workplaces, they instead arrived at five categories into which they divided the 26 participating youths.

  • Skilled workers
  • Apprentices
  • Sabbatical year workers
  • Student workers
  • School dropouts

This classification gave the researchers a much more useful insight into which type of youths need to be targeted in order to avoid workplace injuries.

Young people shouldn’t be lumped together

”Youths cannot be lumped into a single category like other age groups can. We need to look at what they actually do at work, their life situation and the risk factors under which they work,” says Dyreborg.

”It varies from one group to the next, and we cannot find a solution for all youths based on the idea that young people have a group personality, which we can then manipulate by e.g. setting up work environment websites for young people with plenty of rap music. This is a stereotyping of young people for which there is no basis,” says Dyreborg.

The researchers conclude that:

“Age cannot stand alone as the only factor in safety prevention directed at workers aged 18–24 years. If we do so, there is a risk of overemphasising age-related individual characteristics such as awareness and cognitive limitations before structural, relational and hierarchical dimensions in the workplace.”

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Read the Danish version of this article at videnskab.dk

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